Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A book that was...

... As warm and comforting as a mug of hot chocolate: The Sea Garden (31 July 2014) by Deborah Lawrenson
One of the best 'cosy' books I've read for ages. The Sea Garden is actually a set of three linked novellas, one set in the present day and two during the Second World War. A landscape gardener travels to a French island to work on a memorial garden for a wealthy, eccentric client; a blind girl working in a perfume factory becomes involved with the Resistance; a British intelligence officer falls into an affair with a French agent - and at the end, we find out how they're all connected. Gripping, entertaining and atmospheric, with likeable characters and idyllic settings, it rarely puts a foot wrong. One to take on your summer holiday this year.
Rating: 8/10 | Read my full review | Buy the ebook

... Gloriously gothic: Carmilla (1871) by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
In this deliciously melodramatic short story, a lonely young woman living in the Austrian countryside is thrilled when another girl, Carmilla, comes to stay at her home after being involved in a coach crash. The events that unfold thereafter are predictable and clearly signposted, but no less thrilling for that. The book is saturated with hysteria, sexual tension and a doom-laden kind of atmosphere: it's very Victorian, but also has a brisk narrative style which makes it very readable. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys vampire tales or gothic fiction.
Rating: 8/10 | Read my full review | Buy the ebook

... Simply lovely: The Summer Book (1972) by Tove Jansson
Jansson's serene novel tells a number of stories about the adventures of little Sophia and her grandmother, all of which take place during various summers on a Finnish island. It's a charming set of tales which is both wise and whimsical, with a refreshing focus on the simplicity of island life, the main characters' entertaining and amusing relationship, and the very particular landscape which provides a backdrop to all this. I found the book soothing and quietly beautiful, but also very engrossing.
Rating: 8/10 | Read my full review | Buy the ebook

... Full of gently entertaining stories: A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String (16 January 2014) by Joanne Harris
This was consistently enjoyable, if a bit patchy, and lacking in the narrative variety I had hoped for. Harris's stories touch on subjects ranging from a couple of rebellious old ladies in a retirement home to a ghost that only exists online. My favourite, 'The Game', is about an all-consuming computer game which leads its devotees to ruin, and reads like a particularly good creepypasta. The stories overlap in pleasing ways, too, with many set in the same town. Certainly fun - and I would read more - but more of a quick, easy snack than proper nourishment.
Rating: 6/10 | Read my full review | Buy the ebook

... Not for me: The Summoning (1 May 2014) by F.G. Cottam
I've loved all of Cottam's ghost stories (his Dark Echo is one of my favourite books of all time) but I approached this with trepidation: it's a fantasy novel and it's aimed at a YA audience - two things that don't really appeal to me at all. In fact, I did enjoy The Summoning, but definitely less than anything else I've read by the author, and I came away with the definite feeling that it wasn't right for me. There's a lot of detailed world-building going on and it's full of atmosphere; I think it will appeal most to adult fans of fantasy/SF novels, but I'd point anyone else in the direction of his superior ghost stories.
Rating: 6/10 | Read my full review | Buy the ebook

... Amusing but unmemorable: A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (2008) by Xiaolu Guo
A wry romance that's touching but not quite touching enough, this is an unlikely love story about a young Chinese woman and a much older bisexual man. It's also a story about finding yourself, with cultural displacement as a big theme - the narrator is trying to improve her English, and the plot progresses along with her learning. As a romantic comedy it's pretty good, and avoids being burdened with too much sentiment, but I found the naivety of the protagonist rather annoying and didn't really care about the characters or their relationship. Overall, forgettable.
Rating: 5/10 | Read my full review | Buy the ebook

... Disappointing: Who Is Tom Ditto? (24 April 2014) by Danny Wallace
This tale of a man whose girlfriend disappears, only for his investigations to uncover the fact that she was a member of a strange cult-like organisation, was a letdown partly because the premise had the potential to be really interesting. I kind of wish someone else had thought of the same idea first and written the book it could have been. As it is, Tom Ditto is occasionally funny but I got fed up of the bland main character and chick-lit-esque tropes.
Rating: 4/10 | Read my full review | Buy the ebook

I received advance review copies of The Sea Garden, The Summoning and Who Is Tom Ditto? from the publishers through NetGalley.

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1 comment:

  1. Carmilla sounds great! I love any recommendations for long lost forgotten classics!